Bridget (Brigid) Hickey of the Wades Arms

From Geoffrey Tillotson’s review of Ben Tillett’s Memories and Reflections, in The Fortnightly Review of December 1931:

“…In spite of occasional overwriting and certain phrases which it would need Mr. Tillett’s voice and gesture to bring off (for example, “the great big Irish soul Mrs. Hickey”), the record has a headlong power which it is quite impossible to resist…”

From: Tom Mann’s Memoirs, 1923 (Book one: Europe; V. The dock strike of 1889):

“…I must give myself the satisfaction here of putting on record the great kindness and forbearance shown to the Strike Committee, and to the stream of deputations they had to deal with, by Mrs Hickey of the Wades Arm. The hostess, her son, and her daughters had, indeed, a heavy task. We practically took possession of the house, not for an hour or two, but for all day and every day during the five weeks the strike lasted. But Mrs Hickey treated these fellows — ourselves of the committee included — as though she had been mother to the lot. She literally kept a *shillelagh handy, with which she frequently, in a half-serious way, would threaten any young fellow who was too noisy; but it was fine that these rough chaps respected her so thoroughly, and that she had the splendid tact to make it easy for them to keep good order all through the trying time.

From the beginning the Wade’s Arms pub in Jeremiah Street, Poplar, became the strike centre. Landlady Mrs Hickey became like a mother to the strikers. Whatever time it was when the weary leaders arrived back at their headquarters she was there with a welcome meal or some refreshments and her constant enthusiasm played an important role in maintaining morale over the five weeks of the strike.

There was a constant stream of visitors to the first floor room where the committee discussed the conduct of the strike including the placing of pickets and the distribution of strike pay. Clergymen visited with food and clothing, letters were delivered, collecting boxes were handed in, reporters demanded interviews for their newspapers and the publicity this would give the strike was desperately needed. It was an exhausting time for all the strike committee, who often stayed at the pub for a few short hours in which they were able to grab some desperately, needed sleep. Mrs Hickey provided some marvellous stews and a big breakfast for all the leaders.

As funds grew women, including Mrs. Burns and Eleanor Marx, daughter of Karl Marx, were brought in to organise the financing of the strike…”

*her implement was in fact a cow’s tail, the large vertebra being the business end.

Richard Clancy writes at

“Mrs Bridget Hickey, the landlady of the Wade’s Arms, was a witness at my great-grandmother Margaret Clancy’s marriage to her second husband George Charlston, on the 18th November 1883 at St Marys and St Josephs church, Poplar.

Margaret and her first husband, Daniel Clancy, lived prior to his death in 1881 in Grove Street, which became Bygrove Street. Bridget Hickey herself was given a mention in the Stepney Docks Web site, in relation to the Stepney Dock Strike of 1889, cooking food for the leaders of the strike, despite a fairly (sic) large family of her own to feed, on perhaps, as a widow, a very limited amount of money. I am proud as a retired person these days, having discovered Bridget, during my searching for my own family ancestors, was a good friend of my great grandmother.”

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